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Buffalo To Schenectady, NY On Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited
  Today I would begin my annual Christmas Shopping Amtrak trip for 2014, a tradition for me that is now in its 14th year! My original plan was to ride Train #48 - The Lake Shore Limited from Buffalo-Depew Station to Schenectady, NY. I would be renting a car from Enterprise and staying at the Courtyard By Marriott Hotel on Washington Ave. in Albany and would ride Empire Service Train #281 back to Buffalo three days later. I was supposed to have this same itinerary last year but ended up on Empire Service Train #284 instead. That trip ended up being excellent, but with Heritage Diners on their way to retirement at some point in the not-so-distant future as the Viewliner II Diners eventually start coming online, I knew I needed one more chance to eat in a Heritage Diner before they are retired so I really wanted to ride #48 again, and this year, things worked out as planned.
  A few weeks before this trip was set to begin, I got a call from a friend of mine in Albany who is an Amtrak engineer based there. He told me he would be running two trains on the second day I would be in town and so he wanted me to ride a train he was running. My schedule for this trip outside of getting the actual shopping done is generally "open" and what I usually do ends up just happening "on the fly" so I decided taking a ride along the Hudson to New York and back would be a cool thing to do! It would almost be like a "trip within a trip"! I purchased the tickets (a few weeks before the actual trip verses the original two tickets which were purchased months earlier) with a combination of cash and 4,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards Points so as to ride Empire Service Train #250 from Albany-Rensselaer to New York Penn Station, then ride directly back to Albany on Empire Service Train #281, having about a 90 minute layover in the Big Apple!
  I arrived at Buffalo-Depew Station around 8:45am. I got a quick picture of the new buffalo that is on display outside of the station. This time, it seemed rather fitting that the animal was covered in snow, something we're notorious for in these woods! During the week, a Nor'Easter had dumped anywhere from 8 to 12 inches of snow if not more, across a good chunk of the northeast including Buffalo as well as most of New York State. Thankfully, the storm was out of the area by the day of this trip, though it was delaying trains earlier in the week. I had been checking the status of Train #48 throughout the week and it had been arriving into Buffalo-Depew most days either on time or nearly on time which is a great thing as I haven't rode this train in two years and needed to get another ride on it again! I headed outside to the platform after picking up a Diet Pepsi in the station. At 9:00am, running 2 minutes late, Train #48 arrived at Buffalo-Depew Station. The consist for today's train is shown below:
124 P42DC   Power (To Boston)
131 P42DC   Power (To Boston)
1701 Heritage Baggage   Baggage Car (To Boston)
62027 Viewliner I Sleeping Car Orchard View Sleeping Car (To Boston) 4820
25106 Amfleet II Coach   Coach (To Boston)
25014 Amfleet II Coach   Coach (To Boston)
28020 Amfleet II Cafe/Lounge Car   Cafe/Lounge Car (To Boston)
25090 Amfleet II Coach   Coach (To New York)
25112 Amfleet II Coach   Coach (To New York) (My Car)
25082 Amfleet II Coach   Coach (To New York)
25104 Amfleet II Coach   Coach (To New York)
8505 Heritage Dining Car   Dining Car (To New York)
62031 Viewliner I Sleeping Car Prairie View Sleeping Car (To New York) 4811
62033 Viewliner I Sleeping Car Scenic View Sleeping Car (To New York) 4812
1709 Heritage Baggage   Baggage Car (To New York)
SPECIAL NOTE: Viewliner I Sleeping Cars no longer display their names on the sides of the cars but still sport their original names on the end doors as you enter the cars from the inside.
  We had a huge crowd get on the train and thus there was a huge line. My ticket was "lifted" electronically while in line to board, since Amtrak no longer issues paper tickets for the most part. One very convenient feature of this though is you now can store your ticket on your phone and the conductor can scan the QR code directly from your phone, that is on your e-ticket! At 9:14am, we departed Buffalo-Depew Station, running 6 minutes late, no big deal! Shortly after departing and storing my luggage, I headed to the Dining Car for breakfast. We had a former Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railway Diner that was built by Budd in 1958. The car was numbered 8505 and had the full pink and green Timoinsa Interior. Heritage Diners are my absolute favorite cars on Amtrak and I knew I wanted to ride this train so as to be able to eat breakfast and lunch in one of these historic cars again. I was seated with a passenger who was traveling to somewhere in New Hampshire from Albuquerque, NM. We had some decent conversations and I gave him my card for this site. I had the Railroad French Toast with pork sausage patties and a Diet Pepsi. The total cost for breakfast was $15.25. An announcement was made that a member of the Dining Car crew would walk through the train to take lunch reservations. I was told to come back at 12:00noon for lunch since I was getting off the train in Schenectady. After breakfast, I headed to the Cafe Car to chat with the conductors who are both friends of mine and whom I've rode with several times over the years and are among the best on Amtrak!
  We made our next stop at Rochester, NY at 10:05am. There was yet another huge crowd boarding the train here! During this time of the year, lots of colleges are ending their semesters so there would be a lot of young people riding the train to get home for the holidays. I got off the train briefly to get a few pictures and noticed some kind of heavy equipment on the ground at the station that appears to be digging some kind of deep hole in the ground on the platform, not sure what it was for. After getting a few pictures, I reboarded the train and we made a double-spot so as to take care of passengers in one of the New York section's Sleeping Cars that didn't fit on the platform during the first spot. We departed Rochester at 10:14am, still having lost no time, running 6 minutes late. I would continue chatting with the crew as we made our way across the state with not much freight traffic until we got to just 5 or 6 miles outside of Syracuse where we ended up following CSX Train Q-112. This would cause us to have to stop at CP-293 which is not even 2 miles from the Syracuse Station because Q-112 was in front of us.
  We arrived at our next stop of Syracuse, NY at 11:47am. A smoking break was permitted here and there was another good-sized crowd boarding as well. I did what I do best, headed up to the head-end and got a few more pictures! A fair amount of baggage was also being off-loaded here as well. We would also need to make another double-spot here to handle passengers in the New York section whose cars didn't fit on the platform during the first spot. With a new engineer at the throttle (this train changes engineers in Syracuse), we departed Syracuse at 11:56am, running 18 minutes late, still, no big deal!
  Shortly after departing Syracuse, I headed back to the Dining Car for lunch. I would be seated with two women who were both from Buffalo! One of which worked at a retirement home for the religious where a nun in my family once lived. She passed away in 2004 but I remember many years ago her telling me that traveling by rail was her favorite way to travel! Strangely enough, I'm the only member of my entire family who has a huge interest in train travel! Sometimes I feel like I'm riding the trains she never got the chance to ride herself! To Sister Eunice, I hope I'm doing a good job with all of this!
  I would have the Marketplace Special for lunch which was Turkey Meatballs in a tomato sauce with Parmesan cheese and garlic mashed potatoes. I would also have a side salad and a Diet Pepsi with chocolate moose for dessert. The total cost for lunch was $23.00 and the food was excellent, as well as the conversation with the two passengers I was seated with! One of the greatest things about train travel is the fact that you meet lots of people that you otherwise might never meet. Also, a delicious hot meal in a Dining Car is a time-honored tradition in train travel. Having a Dining Car available was the biggest reason why I wanted to ride this particular train for this trip as I did have other options (a total of four trains per day go east out of Buffalo). The Lake Shore Limited was the first Amtrak train I ever rode and today is still my favorite! We passed through Rome, NY during lunch, though this train doesn't stop there. Knowing that's 14 miles from Utica, I knew I wanted to be finished with lunch before arriving in Utica so I could get a few more pictures. I ended up having to ask for my check so I could pay it and get off the train when we arrived. It was obvious the Dining Car crew was being faced with huge crowds and they worked as best they could.
  We would arrive at our next stop of Utica, NY at 1:11pm. I barely was able to get off the train here to get a few quick pictures before reboarding. We departed Utica at 1:16pm, running 34 minutes late having lost some time due to some freight traffic and a few speed restrictions. I sat at my Coach seat briefly but would head back to the Cafe Car again and would remain there for the rest of the ride to Schenectady. Overall, we had a very well-patronized train as we moved across the state. There was a fair amount of snow on the ground as the Nor'Easter we recently had pretty much blanketed most of the state with snow (except New York City as you'll later see). We eventually passed CP-169 and would now be running on Amtrak trackage having been on CSX track thus far. What is now known as the Amtrak Hudson Line is actually still owned by CSX but is on long-term lease to Amtrak who also maintains and dispatches it. We now were traveling on some high-speed railroad until just before we would arrive at the next station of Schenectady which would be my stop for this train. At 2:38pm, running 43 minutes late, we arrived at Schenectady. My Amtrak Engineer friend picked me up from the station so as to bring me to Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Schenectady to pick up my rental car.
  After quickly chatting with another railfan at the station, my friend drove me to Enterprise where I picked up a 2014 Ford Fusion Titanium that had Massachusetts plates on it for whatever reason. This car had good power and decent ride quality, though it felt a bit cramped in the interior, though being 6' 2" doesn't help my cause! After leaving Enterprise, I headed over to a nearby McDonald's to get a quick late lunch then drove to my hotel, the Courtyard By Marriott on Washington Ave. in Albany. I also ended up being stuck in a serious amount of traffic as it was afternoon drive time by now. Once I checked into the hotel, I decided to start writing this travelogue and wait for traffic to ease up before heading out to go take care of most of my actual shopping! The whole "shopping" portion of this trip ended up taking less than an hour to complete! As you've probably figured out, the "shopping" aspect was the "excuse" to make the trip, as most of the trip is spent railfanning! After finishing the shopping, I headed back to the hotel and would have a quick dinner from Subway located next to the hotel. I decided to call it a day early as I would have a huge day ahead of me tomorrow, and so ends an excellent day. Click below to see some photos taken on the ride to the Capital Region today, and after that, let's head to the Big Apple!!!